You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on widesmiles.org.

This one is about: A Wildcat In Recovery!


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A Wildcat In Recovery!
by Joanne Green
Wide Smiles

Jessica is not really very big. At six years of age she still barely reaches 30 pounds (and that only after she eats a big meal!) And she's such a delicate, feminine little thing. Looks like a big stiff wind could blow her away. But don't try it. This little girl will take on the forces of nature itself if she feels in any way threatened. And so it did not surprise me that she fought tooth and nail in the recovery room after her first surgery.

Jessica arrived for adoption at 20 months of age. (weight - 14 pounds). Her bilateral cleft lip had been repaired but her palate was still fully cleft. Because of serious health concerns, it was six months before she was scheduled for soft palate repair.

We took our tiny princess to the hospital that morning. She never was what you would call "trusting" but she was at least more or less unaware. She had no real concept of what was about to happen. After a six month and counting struggle to adjust to her new home, suddenly she was in a new, unfamiliar place, with a lot of strangers doing unfamiliar things to her, and that last time that happened, she lost everything in her world. She got put on a plane and landed on a new planet with funny-looking people and nobody and nothing that she had counted on before that counted any longer. We couldn't tell her that a hospital is not an airport, and that when it was all over, she was coming back to her familiar home, to her same old brothers, same old room, same old bed and same old dog. We would always be there for her, but she had no way of knowing that, and so she became a little distrusting. But we stayed with her up to the last possible minute, sent her familiar Minnie Mouse in to the OR with her, and waited outside in the little room.

Time passed slowly, as it always does when you are waiting. We were the first family in the room that morning. We had our choice of chairs - either the ones that sat in front of the broken TV or the ones that looked so comfortable but felt like rocks, or the ones that faced a corner that was only slightly more boring than the broken TV. We chose to stare at the broken TV (we never get to watch much TV at home!)

Other families came, took their choices of seats, and then were called to meet their loved ones on the after side of surgery. But we waited. Then the room filled up. It was 2 1/2 hours when a young nurse (we thought we knew 
all of them, but this one was new) came to the entrance of the little room and looked from family to family.

Finally she spoke. "Jessica." My husband and I popped up to standing. She looked at us, then looked around the room again and said, "Jessica Green."

I said, "Yes, she's ours." She looked at us again. Clearly registering that we were not nearly as Asian as our daughter, and then looked back into the room and said, "The little two-year-old."

"Yes, she's MINE." I said "She doesn't look like me." Finally the nurse looked at me directly and said. "She's - - - - crying."

I asked her if I could go to recovery to be with her. She said "yes", clearly the reason she came to find us anyway. As we walked to recovery, the dazed young thing of a nurse turned to me and said, "she's crying a lot."

What an understatement!

I walked through the doors and before I could say anything, the nurse holding my child yelled to me, "Don't let the blood frighten you. It's under control." There was blood splattered everywhere! My daughter's blood! She had torn out her IV and flung herself around so much she spattered everything within a reasonable radius before they managed to get a bandage on her hand.

The crib behind Jessica was in shambles. Jessica had flung herself around so much the nurse took her out of the crib to pad it. Then my baby tore the pads apart. She had grabbed towels out of the nearby shelves and threw them
all over the floor. She had knocked over an IV pole and some other equipment. One nurse tried holding her. Jessica grabbed her glasses and flung them across the room. She pulled the nurse's hair down from the bun it had been fastened into and she had ripped 2 buttons off the nurse's blouse. (I wonder if that dear person got combat pay for this).

My child was beet-red and stiff as a board. She was screaming inconsolably and had gone totally berserk. That little 18 pound two-year-old child was holding the entire recovery room at bay!

One of the nurses (the one wiping up some of the blood) asked if I was the mother. I nodded and said, "Yes, I'm her mother."

Jessica heard my voice through her hysteria and suddenly sat bolt upright in the nurse's arms. She still could not orient to the direction of my voice, but she knew she heard something familiar. I walked up behind her and gently took her from the bedraggled nurse's arms. As I shifted her into my own arms, she leaned back and focused her drugged eyes on my face. A calm came over her own face and she almost melted into my arms. At peace at last, she fell asleep as I held her.

News of Jessica's recovery room fiasco spread all over the hospital. I'm almost certain it was probably the  lunch-room story of the day. I realized how much the story had spread when my husband and I got into the elevator that evening to grab a quick bite to eat and a head nurse from a different department got on with us. I mentioned something about not wanting to leave Jessica with my mom for too long, and the nurse looked at us and said, "Oh, you're the parents of that little girl who had surgery this morning." (Ah yes, our reputation doth precede us!)

Jessica was fine as long as WE administered her medication, WE offered her liquids, WE kept her clean, WE reported her vitals. But every time a white uniform so much as crossed the doorway, Jessica became distraught. No matter. If she needed me, that's why I was there.

A year and a half passed before we could get her hard palate repaired. When we went for pre-op, the nursing staff made a strange request. This child was NOT to come to recovery before Mom was there waiting for her. The doctor agreed.

Good plan, poor execution. Before Jessica got to recovery the second time, she had already pulled her IV out. They brought her to me and she began to nestle in. Then they tried to re-insert her IV. Even on a good day, Jessica does not like to be messed with. Well, this was not a good day! She began to fight the nurse. Then there were 2 nurses. Then there were 3 nurses trying to get this IV back in, and finally the anesthesiologist - a nice young man - joined the foray.

Jessica fought. But it finally became apparent that she was outmatched. It was five grown-ups against my 20-pound three-year-old child. But it was the anesthesiologist who stood directly in front of her, holding above and below the area of the arm in which they were inserting the needle. In her final effort to regain control, Jessica stretched her leg out and locked her knee into an immutable force, as she ground the heel of her foot into the groin of that nice man. I tried to dislodge it, but made matters worse. I stopped trying to help. That poor man's face turned every shade of purple, but he held his ground. And when it was over, he gave my darling a wide berth! And a new respect was won all the way around.

Should parents be allowed in the recovery room? Yes, I think so. I think that recovery rooms should be designed to allow for parents to comfort their own children. How comforted are you by strangers? Our babies don't fully  understand that when all this pain and confusion is over, life will be better for them. They don't know that this person who is sticking them and shoving things in their ears and up their butts really is not trying to hurt them.

They are scared and they feel vulnerable, and while most of them probably will not put put the fight that Jessica did, they will ALL feel much better in the arms of someone they know and trust.

It's been a few years now since Jessica's early surgeries. Has recovery recovered yet? Probably. But mark my words, there are at least a couple of nurses and one anesthesiologist who will not soon forget the day the wildcat ran loose in recovery!

Joanne


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